Thursday, August 28, 2003

Hunh, I wouldn't think you did needlework.

Do you get that often?

"People" must just think that women who do needlework are . . .what? Quiet? Feminine? Domestic? Dull? Conservative? Certainly I'm none of these things. Loud. Feminist. Untamed. Liberal.

But when did feminine get to be the opposite of feminist? It's not easy to point to the 70s--some feminists did indeed go the "earth mother" route, which included embroidery, bread baking, motherhood. Needlework today isn't Jane Austen's needlework. Sure, some dumb-ass soldier sitting next to me in a plane might ask me to sew on a button (um, the needle is BLUNT!), but we don't do it anymore to prove we know the alphabet and can mark our family linens. We don't do it to prove we're women, even if that's what some people might think about it.

But there's no arguing about dull, is there? In a women's history class I took at Columbia we read Loom and Spindle: or, Life among the early mill girls. We were discussing how these women spent their days in the mill and then went home and did needlework. Ok, I brought it up since no one else had noticed they spent their days sewing and then went home to do more sewing. Everyone agreed that they must have had unbelievably tedious lives. As a stitcher, I disagreed that spending an evening stitching after a hard day sewing would be more of the same. I feel stresses leave my body even if I am hunched over a difficult project. It's another thing.

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